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National

October 6, 2018
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Qureshi denies willingness to discuss Shakil Afridi issue with US

National

October 6, 2018

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WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has denied reports that he had offered any willingness to discuss Dr Shakil Afridi with the US.

Talking to media yesterday at the Pakistan embassy here, the Foreign Minister maintained that Dr Afridi was sentenced and convicted after a due process. "We expect you to respect our legal process, just as we respect yours," he said adding that Dr Afridi was viewed differently in Pakistan. He further said that if Pakistan is pushed about it then it could bring up Dr Afia Siddiqui in return.

Concluding his trip, the foreign minister remarked that he had been successful in making the Americans realise that they cannot move ahead in achieving political settlement in Afghanistan without Pakistan's facilitation and assistance. He said he has proposed to start structured dialogue to deal with such issues. He also announced that the embassy would be helping him revive the Pakistan caucus and were willing to invite at least fifty members of Congress that could debate and advocate Pakistan's position.

Earlier, speaking at the United States Institute of Peace, a local Think Tank, Shah Mehmood Qureshi lamented that suspension of financial assistance as well as cutting off military training and not providing precision equipment was not helpful in Pakistan's effort to fight terrorism. "Disengagement is not the way forward. That's the last thing you want," he said adding "continuation, cooperation and engagement is what, perhaps, is required."

"Collectively we can achieve our shared objective," Qureshi further said, "blame game will not be productive." He admitted that there was a trust deficit between the two countries which needed to be bridged. The foreign minister said that he had come to the conclusion that bilateral relations with the United States are dependent on the improvement of the situation in Afghanistan. "My road to Washington is via Kabul," he said thus his first foreign trip was to Afghanistan before coming to the US.

Answering a question he said that he was going back with the impression that he has managed to hold the slide [in Pakistan US ties] that would be an achievement. He said he would gradually build trust between the two countries. "It will take time, it won’t happen overnight, because expectations have been different."

He said although he was expecting a "hawkish approach" towards Pakistan but that did not happen, on the contrary the American leadership was ready to listen. Commenting on Pakistan's willingness to help the US in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the table, he said "We have to put our house in order first in order to positively engage with the US."

He pointed out that there was a lack of consensus on how to move forward but that has gradually shifted now. He said due to military operations in the troubled areas, the stat's writ has been reestablished.

"Pakistan is willing and will use all its influence to bring the Taliban to the table. We feel that Afghanistan's stability and peace is linked to ours," he repeated saying this was the realisation and recognition that we cannot be peaceful if Afghanistan is not peaceful. He also maintained that it was a shared responsibility.

"There are other players in the region who’s priorities could be different than ours. Ours is peace, stability, reconciliation. Afghanistan feels that what Pakistan feels United States feels that. But then there are others," he said hinting Pakistan's concerns about India's involvement in Afghanistan.

He also said that China could play a constructive role in Afghanistan and hence must be engaged. China has already initiated a trilateral meeting. The first one was in Beijing and the next could take place in Kabul, he said.

Qureshi pointed out that Pakistan's influence over the Taliban has diminished but maintained that we will do our best, and in good faith, because it was in the country's own interest and not just to please the US. He added that the Taliban has to feel that it was also in their interest to come to negotiations.

He said US importance in the region has not decreased even after the growing China influence. "US was, is and will remain an important global player," given its technological, economical and military power.

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